Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Clear and Present Danger in Connecticut

The warning from the Fire Department of the City of New York is blunt and to the point:

“Lithium-ion battery fires are very dangerous. Water may not prevent a battery from burning and spreading. Battery cells are known to explode and quickly spread to another battery.  These batteries may continue to generate heat even when there is no visible sign of fire. Once heat reaches a certain level fire may reignite on the battery and surrounding area.  Fire Extinguishers do not work on lithium-ion batteries fires.”

The tragic circumstances seen in New York and nationwide caused by lithium-ion battery fires have been documented to varying degrees.  At a July hearing held by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, testimony by New York officials underscored how serious the lithium-ion battery fire problem has become there: batteries are a leading cause of fatal fires, and just this year, “these batteries have led to 87 injuries and 13 deaths in NYC alone” one official pointed out. 

Published reports indicate that in Greater Boston, lithium-ion battery fires in April and June displaced almost a dozen people and sent three to the hospital. In Connecticut, the town of Wilton earlier this year published on its town website a series of safety tips provided by the National Fire Protection Association, noting that “if not used correctly, or if damaged, these batteries can catch on fire or explode.” The Town of Fairfield’s Fire Department also provides tips on its official website, as does the Town of Essex Fire Marshall’s office.  A Connecticut Fire Academy warns fire fighters to “watch for a rapid & highly pressurized release of flammable gases/smoke followed by jet like flames.”